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THE DOUBLE LIFE OF A YOUNG GIRL
LINGERING ON THE PRECIPICE
The nomadic, topsy turvy youthful experience of a little girl influenced the wanderlust of an adult woman. Never feeling quite “there” living the typical lifestyle, I have always felt the need to build upon and add to what most are happy to accept as the norm. That was never enough. Maybe its because of my childhood, maybe it’s because of my favorite personal expression: interior decorating and design. How can one possibly satisfy the need to feather the nest if feathering the nest is her favorite thing? One nest fills quickly leaving, well…the need for another nest.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself…way ahead. So, where was that little girl and her brother ?
BACK TO THE WATERS EDGE
My brother and I loved spending hours and hours sitting on the banks of the cascading creek. We’d be very still as wildlife, large and small, began to enter the picture. Birds of all kinds, singing, flitting and darting here and there. Occasionally, we’d see gray squirrels native to the area, rushing up and down trees, gathering acorns and sipping from the still edge of the quickly moving water. I used to wonder why I saw so many squirrels in the street; victims of traffic. Watching them here, I realized that their movements on ground mimicked the way in which they scuttled within the trees and from limb to limb, up and down so easily in that habitat. But, unfortunately for squirrels on land, the movements are the same and small, jerking and twitching hops don’t make it when speeding cars approach. Their paths go from leap to leap and sometimes back to cross their former steps, not the usual forward motion of other animals. Mystery solved in my young eyes. In the quieter areas along the edge of the water, where rocks and fallen branches formed protected pools, we’d hunch over side by side to catch a glimpse of crawdads on rocks just beneath the surface, small fish gliding and darting about and a water scooter or two skating across the surface of languid water. We could see deep down to the creeks bottom; the water was so clear and clean. Sometimes a flash as sun deflected from a shiny object within the pool. I begin to see that there were worlds within worlds alive before my eyes if I placed myself in the right place and waited….
We were about to reach our teenaged years. Well, my brother, two years my senior, was on the brink of those troubled times. I still had a good dose of ‘kid’ in me. Still partners, we began to wonder what was going on in the neighborhood, such as it was. We lived on a single street which dead ended at the creek and was lined on one side, only, with homes. The other side of the street was still reserved for planting of small crops; usually grasses for feed. He had formed a tight friendship with Larry who lived right behind us. Our house was on the corner so Larry’s home actually ran along the side of ours. No fences meant easy access through back and side yards. Larry had a younger brother my age. He was very shy; just the opposite of his older brother. So, young brother and I never really became close while my brother and Larry were very good friends. I began to feel like the third wheel.
BOYS WILL BE BOYS….(and little sister isn’t invited!)
The two of them spent tons of time on science projects, creating transistor planes and cars with remote controls. Both boys were incredibly intelligent and fearless. They did the usual mischievous things, too…like, shooting fire crackers off in the middle of winter during those dreary days when nothing else is going on. And my favorite, “lunch time surprise.“ It was Larry’s idea!
There always was some kind of home improvement construction going on down the street at one of the neighbor’s homes. The boys would (ugh!) scoop up dog leavings and place them in a brown paper bag. Then, they’d make ‘maps’ with little hints and markers left in evenly spread out positions. The idea was to leave a note at the beginning and end telling the unlucky carpenter that his lunch had been dropped off and to follow the notes. I got to be in on watching this unfold! The workers would return from their break with soda pops in hand while grabbing lunch pales from the truck. Inevitably, one would see the notes and begin to follow instructions. Before we knew it, we’d hear Unmuffled expletives and loud laughter! The unfortunate victim had found the treat! Oh my!!!
Brother and Larry were always up to no good. Behind the closed bedroom door, I’d hear laughing and snickering and I’d wonder what in the world they were doing!?! When they weren’t there or were in the backyard with their home made walkie-talkie (which worked really well!!) I’d sneak in to my brother’s room to see what all the fuss was about. Hidden under the bed or carelessly tucked away under clothes in the closet, were his “girly magazines.” I was shocked! Oh! First thought was to run to tell mother. Then, I thought better of that…after all, I might need my brother’s confidence someday. So, I’d carefully pull the clothing over the magazine or kick it further under the bed so he wouldn’t know I was in on his little secret.
THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ (B. Dylan)
Around this time, we were all being introduced to popular music. The Beatles! A new sound sensation from England! How thrilled we were. I fondly recall the first time they were guests on the Ed Sullivan show. How we counted minutes and seconds until that show aired! It was the biggest thing since the Beach Boys! And, as fate would have it, I fell in love…L_O_V_E with Paul! Oh, he was so cute, so sweet. He could sing and ‘look at his eyes!!’ What a face! I could feel the stirrings of adolescence, thrill to the sight and sound of this gorgeous young man who caused my heart to beat faster and heat to build from head to toe! I was hooked, like a big fish.
School was an easy walk across grassy field; only about 100 yards from home. As the last hour crawled by, I’d be twitching with anxiousness! I had to get home to my first Beatles album and play it over and over and over. I wore that album out! At night, I’d place the record on my small turntable, turn it down low and go to sleep listening to John, Paul George and Ringo sing me to the sweetest slumber. Of course, I just knew that I was going to meet him one day…and he would have the same stirrings for me that I felt for him. I just KNEW it!
So, brother was off wreaking havoc and I was lost in wonderland. We began to spend more and more time apart, separately discovering the changes coursing through our young bodies, me, finding romance in solitude, he being a wild and crazy guy (with the help of his nefarious friend).
I wasn’t going back and forth from mother’s to father’s as much as before. Being a pre-teen; one who was saddled with an enormous load of responsibility for her homelife along with all the trappings and confusing, conflicting feelings, I choose to spend more and more time alone, in my fantasy life. Reading was a favorite pastime…Gone With the Wind , Twixt Twelve and Twenty (by Pat Boone, of all people), The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, all the favorite classics were the stuff of my days and much food for thought. I spent summers with my cat, Snickelfritz, by my side, sitting in my mother’s big fan back chair as I read away the days and evenings. While I was becoming a (very) young adult, my brother was off challenging all the rules which, I know, he felt were made to be broken.
Now, my double life expressed itself through my reading material and imaginings about Paul and boys I had begun to notice. The other part consisted of taking care of the entire family because my mother was working two full time jobs to keep care of my step father who became, rather rapidly, very ill; an illness which lasted over 9 months. I became the ‘mother figure,’ doing the ironing, preparing home made ‘TV dinners’ from scratch and being 99% responsible for my little baby brother.
Oh, yes! My mother had become pregnant and gave birth to my little brother. He lived in my bedroom for 3 years while the family tried to overcome the hardships of my step father’s long period of recovery and my mother’s 18 hour absence from home every day.
More to come. How fantasy and artistry filled the hours of a young girl’s days.